Central and Eastern European countries have earmarked more than half of EU funds for waste to incineration and landfill, in spending plans that also give cash to fossil fuel industries, according to analysis by climate campaigners.
The funding plans will not convince investors to back renewable and low-carbon technologies or give a strong enough signal to spur the transition to a Circular Economy, despite a quadrupling in energy efficiency spending, Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network said in a report launched today (11 December).
Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Croatia are allocated a total €146 billion from the EU budget for Regional Development and Cohesion spending. The funds account for about a third of EU spending, second only to the Common Agricultural Policy.
The countries have submitted draft spending plans for 2014-2020, which are subject to change, for their use of EU money. The plans will be finalised after negotiations with the European Commission, except in the case of Latvia and Estonia. Latvia and Estonia’s operational programmes have been backed by the executive.
Plans are evaluated against 11 objectives, including the transition to a low-carbon economy. The shift is a central objective of the new 2014-2020 regional policy enshrined in partnership agreements signed with member states.
The EU budget for 2014-2020 also contains an agreement that at least 20% of funds would be used to fight climate change. This ringfenced spending should encourage high-carbon EU countries whose governments don’t prioritise climate spending to change, campaigners said.
But the governments planned to use the money for fossil fuel and resource-intensive projects, locking them into “dirty energy futures”, said Markus Trilling, EU funds coordinator at Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe.
The European Commission said negotiations on some spending plans could continue until the middle of next year. It confirmed that a significant increase in energy efficiency spending was expected, while renewable energy support would remain the static.
The shift to a low-carbon and energy secure economy was at the top of the EU agenda and EU regional development and cohesion policy would make an important contribution to achieving it, the executive added.
Main source of public development funding
Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network compared the draft spending plans for 2014-2020, to how the funds were last allocated, seven years ago.
EU funds were often the main source of public development funding in the analysed countries, the report said. But the current plans would not catalyse the shift to a low-carbon economy, did not give investors the certainty they need to back green projects, and would prevent the countries meeting their 2020 Climate and Energy targets.
Energy efficiency spending has quadrupled across the eight countries, with the biggest gains coming in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia.
But incineration and landfilling projects are earmarked for more funds than waste prevention, reuse, reduction and recycling. €1.18 billion is set aside for household waste, including incineration and landfill. About €1.1 billion is earmarked for waste sorting, minimising and recycling, with €403 million for commercial, industrial and hazardous waste.
High-carbon industries still receive funds. Estonia and Poland are planning a substantial amount of fossil infrastructure, according to the report. Fossil fuels make up more than 20% of the energy infrastructure funded by the EU Budget.
Renewables spending has stayed the same over the last seven years. In the Czech Republic in particular, it is declining. Much, almost all in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, of the renewables funding is slated for biomass projects. The report said such projects were potentially environmentally damaging.
In transport, roads are set to receive more than half of the funds, rail about a quarter, and only marginal amounts for clean urban transport.
“We’re seeing the same old types of projects being financed when a new era of more modern greener spending was promised. We need more public investments in sustainable energy and transport and in waste reuse and recycling which could work as catalysts for private investors,” said Trilling.
The European Commission released a statement to EURACTIV, which can be read in full in “Positions” below.
Estonia and Latvia
EURACTIV has learnt that €300 million out of a € 3.6 billion will be dedicated to the shift to a low-carbon economy in Estonia. The projects should contribute to stabilising 2020 energy consumption at 2010 levels (2.84 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe)).
Funds will go towards energy efficiency in infrastructure and apartment blocks, boost the share of renewables and promote renewable energy transport fuels. Initiatives will promote environmentally friendly cities that promote public transport and cycling.
But today’s report said that more than a third of EU funds would go to business without ensuring it is invested in sustainable development. There was no spending on wind power, air and noise pollution mitigation, and “little” for waste management, and nature protection.
In Latvia, €286 million out of a total €4.48 billion will support the national target of 40% renewable energy share. This would be delivered through energy efficiency in houses and businesses and backing renewable sources in district heating. A target of 143 MW has been set.
The campaigners agreed that there was good support for energy efficiency but said measures should target the poor and vulnerable. There was not enough support for flood prevention, water protection, or recycling, they added.